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Defiants

Reviewed by Nicholas HM Caldwell, Copyright 2000

Edited by Suzanne Campbell for The Guild Companion

Defiants is the second major supplement for the Brave New World modern-day superheroes game. Written by Matt Forbeck and published by Alderac Entertainment Group, Defiants is a 128-page softback volume, illustrated with black and white comic-book artwork

Defiants covers the Defiance, the delta movement dedicated to the downfall of Kennedy's dictatorship and the restoration of democracy to the United States of America. Unfortunately for freedom, the Defiance is divided into a number of squabbling factions with very different means to achieving their divergent ends.

The book concentrates on the major factions - the pragmatists, the separatists, the terrorists, and the nonviolent resistance. There's plenty of room for minor factions either within these major philosophical groupings or at their intersections. Creative GMs and determined players can carve out their own particular niche in the struggle for freedom.

Defiants is mostly written as if by the leaders of the major factions. The key here is that they are all "unreliable narrators", presenting the world from their own biased points of view. They, especially "Truth", should not be zassumed to be telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This is an excellent method of ensuring that any players reading these sections will be wary of putting all their trust in this information, which in Kennedy's America is exactly how characters who want to stay out of New Alcatraz should behave! (And naturally, this allows the GM to have more than a few surprises up his or her sleeve!)

After a short introduction by Truth, the "Yellow Journalist" provides a history lesson on how The Delta Times, the underground newspaper for deltas and alphas, came into existence, and how the Defiance was founded in the months following the assassination of First Lady Jackie Kennedy. He also provides a different slant on the four major factions. As ever, there are twists in twentieth-century history, e.g. the Cuban Missile Crisis becomes the Bay of Pigs incident where the Soviets threatened to station a battalion of alphas, deltas' deltas, in Cuba. Such touches are often clever, and do much to flesh out the setting.

The narrative soapbox then returns to Truth who describes the so-called "Defiance Riots" following the trial and execution of Patriot, and provides further comment on the other three factions.

In "Living La Vida Delta", the focus turns to the delta separatist movement. Their leader, Enrique Salvador, invites deltas from the USA and elsewhere to emigrate to Isla Delta, an island protectorate of Costa Rica, inhabited solely by deltas. In return for protection, Costa Rica has offered the deltas a new home, which will become an independent nation once Isla Delta's population passes the thousand-delta mark. The history of the movement, the activities of Team Freedom (recruiters who assist deltas in reaching safety), the geography and society of Isla Delta are all detailed. If your characters are exhausted by a life on the run from Delta Prime, then Isla Delta is truly the Promised Land.

The Delta Warriors, led by Malachai Winter, exemplify a more violent opposition to the Kennedy regime. In "The Delta War", "Killer", as Winter is sometimes known, describes the atrocities perpetrated on deltas and regulars alike by Delta Prime. Then he outlines his plan for direct and drastic measures against the government, justifying his terrorist tactics and explaining the Delta Warrior organization. The Delta Warriors are the obvious choice for player-characters that are prepared to get their hands dirty and bloody in an armed struggle against Delta Prime. More scrupulous player-characters will prefer the pragmatic resistance of Truth's faction.

At the other end of the philosophical spectrum from the Delta Warriors is the Pax Delta. This nonviolent resistance movement is likely to provide occasional support and assistance for PC deltas rather than an organizational home.

Defiants then temporarily switches gear from sourcebook to rulebook.

Chapter One supplies a new batch of power packages to expand the range of options open to would-be deltas. Six are introduced, namely the Bomber, the Changeling, the Charmer, the Hacker, the Phaser (who can walk through walls), and the Snuffer (who can temporarily shut down other deltas' powers). Each new power package is also instantiated with an archetype character for fast play. More power packages are always to be welcomed, but I do worry a little about having to run around three books (Brave New World, Ravaged Planet, and now Defiants) to ensure that players make a sensible choice of superpowers during character generation.

Chapter Two is marked as being part of "The Guides Handbook" and so is not for player consumption. The chapter re-examines the major factions, revealing a host of secrets, both major and minor, on what's really going on behind the scenes. There's the usual warning that the designer is still withholding a few surprises for later supplements, but enough is revealed that this caveat does not raise hackles. The Delta Warriors, Team Freedom, and Pax Delta are discussed in detail with profiles (full statistics) for their leaders. The Really Big Secret of this chapter isn't actually that surprising if you've been paying attention and reading carefully, but nevertheless I'm not going to reveal it here.

Defiants concludes with an Afterword from the designer, which is mostly concerned with providing errata to correct small but niggling rules problems and story discrepancies in Brave New World and Ravaged Planet. These errata are also freely available on the Web so you don't need to buy Defiants just for the errata. Forbeck also justifies using power packages rather than do-it-yourself powers (as is the norm in other superhero games such as Champions) on the grounds that they are better tuned to the setting, and reassures his readership regarding the switch from Pinnacle to Alderac. As I've said elsewhere, I prefer power packages as they limit the opportunities for munchkinism, and from listening in on the industry grapevine, the publisher move seems to have gone smoothly.

Summing up, Defiants is an extremely well written supplement with Forbeck ensuring that each "narrator" has his or her own distinct voice. If you're serious about using the Brave New World setting fully, you really need the lowdown on the Defiance movement, and this book is the definitive guide. The new power packages will sate (at least temporarily) the desire for new superpowers without unbalancing the game or increasing the complexity of the game with additional rules per se. All in all, Defiants is a worthy addition to the Brave New World universe.

Editor's Note:

Defiants is published by Alderac Entertainment Group. Their contact details are as follows:
Alderac Entertainment Group
4045 Guasti Road, Suite #212,
Ontario
California 91761
USA
Web: www.alderac.com

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